Book Lists, Book reviews

Cancer Ward

Yesterday we took the girls A.K.A chimpees, out of state, to Lake Charles, Louisiana. It was a loooong trip. Nice scenery. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. But a lot of driving. I was thus able to finish the last quarter of Cancer Ward. What a book! I got it from the library, but due to its size, I decided to buy a copy and it came with a surprise. The former owner had penciled some mistakes, and even a couple of minor incongruities that I would have missed. Most importantly, he or she left me with an enigmatic penciled note from Nov. 19, 1988, saying this,

An unusual locus (?- or book?) and idea for a novel that I think not worth reading. Any literary drama is lost in translation and the world for the “action” is interminable, I’ve tried twice and couldn’t finish the last 50 pages.
Skip it unless you’re impelled
19 Nov 88

And I wonder, how would he know that literary drama is lost in translation?

I enjoyed and marveled at every page of this book. The characters are like real people to me, their dialogues are beautiful, intense, the descriptions of the feelings and surroundings were masterly written. I know there is always something gone in translation, but meaning pervades, I am sure. I would love to read it again, once it is blurred in my memory.

I will leave you with one of the many topics and discussions rendered by Solzhenitsyn.

…But nowadays it’s easier to find a good wife than a doctor ready to look after you personally for as long as you want, and who understands you fully and trully.”

Ludmilla Afanasyevna frowned. These were abstract ideas, Meanwhile her head was whirling with more and more symptoms arranging themselves in the worst possible pattern.
“That’s all very well, but how many family doctors would you need? It simply doesn’t fit into the system of a free universal national health service.”
“It’ll fit into a universal national health service, but it won’t fit into a free health service,” said Oreshchenkov, rumbling on and clinging confidently to his point.
“But it’s our greatest achievement, the fact that it’s a free service.”
“Is this in fact such a great achievement? What does ‘free’ mean? The doctors don’t work for nothing, you know. It only means that they’re paid out of the national budget and the budget is supported by patients. It isn’t free treatment, it’s depersonalized treatment. If a patient kept the money that pays for his treatments, he would have turned the ten roubles he has to spend at the doctor’s over and over in his hands. He could go to the doctor five times over if he really needed to.”
“But he wouldn’t be able to afford it?”
“He would say, ‘To hell with the new drapes and spare pair of shoes. What’s the use of them if I’m not healthy?’ Is it any better as things are now? You would be ready to pay goodness knows how much for a decent reception at the doctor’s, but there’s no one to go to get it. They all have schedules and their quotas, and so it’s ‘Next patient, please.’ As for the clinics that do charge fees, the turnover’s even faster than in the others. Why do people go there? Because they want a chit or certificate or sick leave or an invalid’s pension card. The doctor’s job there is to catch the malingerers; patients and doctors are like enemies. Do you call that medicine? Or take the actual drugs and medicines, for instance. In the twenties all medicines were free. Do you remember?”
“Is that right? Yes, I think they were. One forgets.”
“You’d really forgotten, have you? They were all free of charge, but we had to give it up. Do you know why?”
“I suppose it must have been too expensive for the government,” said Dontsova with an effort, closing her eyes for a short while.
“It wasn’t only that, it was also that it was extremely wasteful. The patient was bound to grab all the drugs he could since they cost him nothing and the result was he threw half of them away. Of course I’m not saying all treatments should be paid for by the patient. It’s the primary treatment that ought to be. After a patient has been directed to enter hospital or undergo treatment that involves complicated apparatus, then it’s only fair it should be free. But even so, take any clinic: why do two surgeons do the operations while the other three just gape at them? Because they get their salaries come what may, so why worry?


I also finished Three Men in a Boat, and ordered, thanks to my friend Celeste, a book based on this one, named To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is the subtitle of Jerome K. Jerome Victorian and highly humorist original book.

I am reading Asimov’s letters and I Robot. As I read I Robot, I say, have I read this before or not? I don’t know if I am remembering the book, the movie, or both? Never mind, I only remember as I read, so in a sense, it is new to me. I have a vague and maybe erroneous memory of how it ends.

That book under the Confessions, and on top of Asimov letters, is  Mr. Tompkins in Paperback. I have tried to read this book before and never finished it. Mr. Tompkins has dreams in which he goes to cities and scenarios that are supposed to illustrate physics principles and laws, such as relativity. Sigh. I don’t

Ongoing reads are Barzun essays and Titans of Literature. I started to read Agustine’s Confessions. I was shocked to read he believes that babies and children are sinners. I would not have guessed that in a life time.

I am about to finish Vanity Fair in the Kindle, and making room for these three books I received for Christmas,

Girl with a Pearl Earring. No. I haven’t read this acclaimed book yet. I hope to like it. I should. I’ll tell. Ooops, I am realizing there is still a bit of wrapping in the cover.

The Ambleside Online Forum gals read The Scarlet Pimpernel, so I got this nicely illustrated pb copy. To be honest I don’t even know what a Pimpernel is. It sounds to me a mix of pimple and kernel. And a Japanese in the cover with that black leather arm and hand an envelope with a flower… ummm… maybe that is a scarlet pimpernel, a red flower.

The Help. I saw the movie, and liked it. And I am expecting to like the book better. I could choose between the movie cover, or the original cover. I went for the original cover with these birds on the perch.


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